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Fr. Jeff's Monthly Stewardship Newsletter

July 1, 2016

This month the letter, in addition to your monthly Stewardship information, also includes another set of Questions and Answers that have been generated through the Survey and Focus Group Process. We also want to restate our objective concisely, so that we don’t lose sight of the overall picture because of the details.

WHY ARE WE DOING THIS? Once again, the point of entering into a strategic planning process at this time is two-fold. First, it is a response to the Archdiocesan plan for the future which envisions each of the parishes of the Archdiocese participating in a cluster of parishes by the year 2020. There are several reasons for this. One is the shortage of Clergy, another is the dwindling resources of many parish communities because of demographics, aging populations, financial downturns and the rising cost of maintaining large and often out of date facilities. We also face a changing culture and the need to re-evangelize ourselves and our parish communities to face the modern world.

Secondly, for our parish communities to thrive, we must combine resources, energies and opportunities for current and future growth. There is also the fact that we are geographically close to one another. From the outset, we have expressed a desire to create a future for ourselves based on responsible planning rather than have it be a response to circumstances that we can no longer control.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR CREATING/WRITING THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE PLAN? We all are, as you have been asked to provide your feedback to different issues and have been asked to talk about those issues. On the practical level, our Priests and three of our six trustees are leading the process. Assisting them are the three members of the Pastoral Council Communication Committee and three more Council members, one from each parish. They will reflect on the Five Areas of Ministry that are a part of every parish. Once again, those categories are: PRAYER and WORSHIP, FINANCE, CHRISTIAN FORMATION, HUMAN CONCERNS AND COMMUNITY BUILDING.  From the information we have received from your feedback, as well as the thoughts and informed opinions of the parish representatives on the Pastoral Council for the three parishes, we will identify definite priorities for the plan and call for concrete strategies to accomplish those priorities over the next 2-5 years. We will ask you all to reflect on the first draft, make any necessary changes and make a final recommendation to the Archbishop and the Council of Priests. This leads us into the next question…

WHO WILL MAKE THE FINAL DECISION ABOUT OUR STRATEGIC PLAN? There are two ways of answering the question. On the most basic level, it will be the Pastoral Council and the people of our three parishes who will make a recommendation to adopt the plan. Depending on that final deliberation, the parties responsible for approving the plan might change. Here are two examples.

            A. The final recommendation is for all three parishes to remain the same as they are now, separate and distinct, but with a further level of collaboration and staffing to take place, such as combining individual Prayer and Worship staff positions into one, or combining other ministry categories that remain separate into one set of working committees or ministries cluster-wide. In this scenario, the Office for Planning and Parish Councils will accept or recommend modifications to the plan and the Archbishop will weigh in as it proceeds. As needs are identified and met, we will need to modify the plan as time goes on to reflect future changes in the parishes. Or, another option…

            B. The final recommendation includes a proposal to merge any of the three parishes. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. If the final plan recommends any of the forms of merging, then the Archbishop, the College of Consultors (his advisory group) and the Archdiocesan Council of Priests will recommend the final decision. There is also a process that is used to make sure that all legal matters, both for the church and for civil authorities are properly observed. In either case, we are the first level of decision making. Depending upon the vision we create, others enter into the process. 

THE ARCHBISHOP/THE ARCHDIOCESE ALREADY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE GOING TO DO, WHY DON’T THEY JUST DO IT?  In all honesty, the plan for clustering the parishes (Vision 2020) has been promulgated by the Archbishop and he has mandated that all the parishes be a part of one of the forms of clustering that have been determined. How that is accomplished and implemented in each parish/cluster of parishes has been left up to the people. Our input has been important in designing that implementation. Here in our cluster, that is demonstrated by our commitment to ministry, combined staff positions and the Tri-Parish Pastoral Council. Much has been done in the last four years and you should all be very proud of what has been accomplished as we move on to the next level of planning.

WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG?  The simplest answer is that it is a complicated process and there are many levels of clarification that we must achieve. In the final version of the plan, we must defend our choices and our dreams for the future with 1) accurate data, 2) honest reporting of our financial resources, 3) proof of adequate consultation of our membership and 4) a basic consensus of that membership. Opportunities to provide necessary feedback will continue as we hold gatherings to discuss the draft plan and as the final plan is prepared after that time. We still plan to have financial data distributed to all households before the first weekend of August and a draft plan ready as we move into September and the feedback sessions. We hope to have the final version of the plan ready by January 1st.   The dates for implementation will depend on the final version of the plan.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED SO FAR?  We know that the process of change is intimidating and at times uncertain and stressful. We have learned that we have to live with these tensions to have the proper time to fashion a plan that meets the needs and priorities that we have seen so far. +We have learned that there is great appreciation for our Liturgical life in all three parishes, and that Worship is our first priority. +We have seen the value that you place on God’s Word and how it is shared, both in the Liturgy and through Christian Formation Programs for all ages. +Our Community places a special emphasis on making that Word and the authentic teaching of the Church real through outreach and service to those in need. +We have read of your concern over the lack of young people and families with children in all of our communities. +We have seen the value of community and building up our communities as we journey together in faith. +We have seen a clear call for greater financial responsibility and planning for the future of our cluster. These points will certainly form the core of our plan and they will be expanded upon with further practical recommendations.

HOW DOES THE SCHOOL INFLUENCE OUR PLANS? As you know, Christian Formation is a mandate of the Church, we’ve seen that emphasis in the corporal works of Mercy this year. Part of that mandate is to provide an option for parents who choose a Catholic Education for their children. Our individual parish schools underwent a merger over 10 years ago to become a city-wide effort on behalf of all of the parishes. Each parish makes a substantial contribution to the finances of the School, Mary Queen of Saints Catholic Academy. As we have reported over the past year, a new model for management and educational improvement will begin July 1st 2016 when the Academy becomes part of the Seton Schools Initiative. This program has been designed to increase the Catholic Identity, Educational Opportunity and Mission of our Catholic Schools, beginning with the 26 Catholic Schools in the Milwaukee Metropolitan area. Other areas will be added in the future. The school affects our future cluster planning in two ways:

1) the school is hosted in our cluster  - it does not belong to nor is it the responsibility of any one parish, but our three parishes are charged with doing our part to continue its operation as best we can.

2) the responsibility to help provide a Catholic School option for our parishes continues regardless of the location of the school, even if it were not part of our cluster at some point in the future. Every parish community must support Catholic Education as part of its Mission.

HOW MUCH WILL THIS STRATEGIC PLAN COST US? As part of the Financial packet of information you receive next month, we will begin to explore the costs of whatever form the plan will take. Part of that information will include our individual parish assets as they currently stand, a report of the past fiscal year for each parish and what plans need to be implemented to stem the growing tide of deficit budgeting. We will also include a summary of the facilities and property studies that have taken place over the past two years. Another important part of this information will include current operating costs as well as information concerning deferred maintenance at each of our sites. The reason this information has not been included to date rests in the sheer volume of information to communicate and the full attention that it deserves.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO MAKE OUR PLAN A SUCCESS? First, PRAY! We have to put this plan into the hands of the Holy Spirit. And, as St. Aloysius and the Blessed Mother are our patrons, ask that their intercession be joined to ours throughout this process. Another real consideration is that we consciously decide to be positive about the process and the plan. There are lots of statistics out there about possible outcomes to this kind of process. Perhaps the most troubling is that many people leave merged, consolidated or clustered parishes for many reasons. We have to defy the odds by staying, participating, praying and working together! If we hold on to “what once was” or “what I want” will we have the energy or the faith to address what we really need?  A conscious, prayerful and reasoned response to the proposals being made will create an openness to the future that must shape our journey as the People of God. 

The Parish Staff, the Pastoral and Finance Councils and all those involved in this process genuinely appreciate your time and your input. Help us continue to discover what God’s plan for our future can be by working together. Again, we welcome your questions and your comments and are counting on them as we prepare the initial draft of the plan. May God continue to Bless this effort and help to shape us and our future as representatives of the Catholic Church in this area that has been committed to our care.

Thank you and enjoy the blessings of the summer months as they unfold.

Fr. Thomas, Fr. Jeff and the Pastoral staff of our tri-parish community



Since we are now serving three parishes, the easiest way to reach us is after mass, by phone or email.

E-mail Fr. Jeff  <frjeff@ihmwestallis.com> or tel. (262) 424-3341
E-mail Fr. Tom <frtom@ihmwestallis.com> or tel. (262) 945-8071

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 Immaculate Heart of Mary Church
 1212 S. 117th St.
 West Allis, WI 53214

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1121 S. 116th St.  West Allis, WI 53214
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